Medical marijuana, marijuana crimes and Alabama

In the wave of changing social attitudes toward marijuana, the majority of states have authorized its use for certain medical conditions. Recreational marijuana is now available in at least 10 states and the possession of small amounts of the drug has been largely decriminalized in many others.

Except in Alabama.

While efforts to pass a medical marijuana bill have moved to the Senate, the movement is slow and stalling -- even in the face of initiatives on some local levels to stop enforcing simple possession laws. As a whole, Alabama still has one of the most aggressive enforcement rates against marijuana users -- regardless of the reason for its use or the quantity involved.

This is important for residents to understand because the ongoing confusion among marijuana consumers about what exactly is legal (and where) can easily lead to an unnecessary arrest.

So, what happens if you decide to ignore the restrictions? Many people suffering from chronic pain, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), seizures and other difficult-to-treat conditions only find relief with marijuana -- which often makes them willing to take a chance, despite the laws.

Consequences can be quite serious. In Alabama, possession of marijuana can be a Class A misdemeanor, a Class C felony or a Class D felony, depending on the circumstances. Penalities include thousands of dollars in fines and jail time from one to many years.

An initial charge of possession of marijuana for personal use is automatically a Class A misdemeanor. A second charge or a charge of distribution (which could happen if you buy the marijuana for someone else, such as your child or spouse) moves the case into felony territory.

In the future, many people hope that medical marijuana will have a place in Alabama. For now, however, you need to understand the risk you take -- and why it is important to have an experienced defense attorney by your side in court if you've been arrested.

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